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COLUMN: Life-changing programs offered through Onondaga County

— Do you know an elderly or disabled person who lives in an unsafe home? Do you know a hard-working family that genuinely deserves a shot at being a homeowner? Are you aware of any families living amidst deteriorating, toxic lead-based paint? Before the topics of budgets, taxes and politics consume us next month, I thought I would use this opportunity to share some very important information about Onondaga County programs that could be life-changing for a neighbor, friend or loved one.

The mission of the County’s Division of Community Development is to improve quality of life by preserving and revitalizing neighborhoods, increasing values of housing stock, upgrading infrastructure and providing needed community facilities. Community Development programs are funded by State and Federal grants designed to assist low- to moderate-income neighborhoods and households.

The Shape-Up Program provides a safe housing assistance program for the elderly. Eligible homeowners can apply for a grant to cover the costs of various home repairs to a maximum of $10,000. To qualify, homeowners must meet income limits, be current on property taxes and have homeowners insurance. Eligible repairs include mechanical systems, structural repairs and in some cases, safety and energy related items qualify as well. Additionally, if a child under six lives in the home, or visits often, a grant through the Lead Abatement Program may also be available.

The Ramp/Access Program assists disabled residents in Onondaga County. The program offers grants to construct improvements within homes occupied by persons with disabilities in order to improve accessibility. Typical improvements include installation of exterior ramps, alterations to porches, steps and doorways, as well as bathroom and kitchen modifications. Disabled tenants may also qualify, but require written consent from the property owner.

In a given year, the Homeownership Program offers up to 30 single-family dwellings at subsidized prices for qualified first-time home buyers with a minimum annual income of $18,000 and no major credit problems. These rehabilitated homes are located throughout Onondaga County, outside of the City of Syracuse, at prices that typically range from $85,000 to $110,000, before a grant-funded subsidy of up to $30,000 is applied.

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